Lawn replacement is getting some well-deserved buzz and I’m an advocate myself. Unfortunately, ground’s gotta be covered, so what groundcovers do the job with few or no inputs and little to no care? (Something other than English ivy, please.)
That’s the big question in the less-lawn movement, and it’s turned me into a groundcover geek of sorts. They’re so important yet get so little love!
Groundcovers are also in the news in drought-stricken and always-dry places, where gardeners are turning to super-drought-tolerant groundcovers like never before. Even Easterners are adapting their gardeners for a future with longer droughts between more extreme precipitation events. That’s gardening in the age of climate change for ya. Interesting times!
That brings us to the perennial question of garden clean-up and whether leaves can stay in borders and on top of groundcovers. Lamb’s ear and sedum, hailing from dry spots in the world, like to stay that way. In their natural habitats they’re nowhere near deciduous forests, so it’s no surprise that they suffer under layers of wet leaves.
Above, a groundcover Sedum (S. sarmentosum) that I’m raking regularly.
Thyme’s another groundcover that, if I were growing it, I’d keep it free of leaves. Here it’s growing at Chanticleer Garden, on a hillside in amended soil with great drainage.
On the other hand, woodland groundcovers like Golden Groundsel don’t seem to mind being buried under wet leaves. It’s my new favorite groundcover because it can handle shade, it spreads quickly, it’s evergreen, and it’s even native. Shown here in late spring.
I’m also a big fan of groundcover Carexes, which can also withstand leaf cover. Here’s ‘Ice Dance’ in my garden with a fading ‘Ogon’ Spirea, and sweetgum leaves.